By Edward Snook
Grangeville, Idaho – Our first article about the Walkers, their property, and the nightmare they have endured can be read here: “Alleged Fraudulent Survey Creates Nightmare for Landowners.” As our first article points out, we believe the Walker’s property line dispute, actually started back in 1977, when Surveyor Carl Edwards set the SW Corner of their property over three hundred feet north of its original position, in a location we consider erroneous at best. One Idaho Surveyor has stated, “Edward’s Corner is so far out of place that is goes beyond incompetence. It almost has to be fraudulent.” Such misplacement of a survey monument will cause as much as a 35 acre shift in land ownership (that’s enough land for a small township).
In 1968, when Sydney (Butch) and Dorothy Walker purchased their property (hereinafter referred to as Section 24) just outside of Grangeville, ID from Mary Hurley, Hurley showed the Walkers the original property corners and boundary lines of this land. A “mountain” of circumstantial evidence supports the legal description based on the original corners, including the sale(s) of rock from the Walkers gravel pit, located on Section 24, to the Grangeville Highway District (GHD).
In late 2009, the Walkers were forced to file a civil lawsuit against neighbors, Bessie Harmon, Etta Harmon, Ellan Hoiland, Dean Hoiland, Elvin Hoiland (Harmon/Hoilands) to protect their property boundaries.
Surveyor Chad Erickson
The Walkers hired a Boise, Idaho Attorney to represent them. The Walkers then enlisted local surveyor Chad Erickson to assist them in reaffirming their property lines based on the original corners.
In December of 2011, the Walkers fired Chad Erickson because he started deviating from standard surveying practice, which will be described later. In January of 2014, the Walkers, “unable to communicate with their Attorney,” and believing they were “not receiving adequate counsel,” fired him as well. They subsequently contacted the US~Observer to investigate their case.
On May 3, 2014, the Walkers hired Attorney Wesley W. Hoyt of Clearwater, Idaho. During a hearing held on December 16, 2014, District Judge John Stegner dismissed Walker’s original lawsuit and flawed Summary Judgement Motion (filed by the opposition Attorney) and dismissed the Walker’s claims without prejudice, meaning he was allowing them to file a new lawsuit, with Hoyt’s representation. Judge Stegner ruled at this hearing on a Motion filed by the Grangeville Highway District’s Attorney Gary Jones, that when the Walkers file their new lawsuit, they need to include all adjoining landowners who would be affected by a court ruling in this case. Walker’s Boise Attorney had failed to do this in his original Summary Judgement Motion along with numerous other failures. Judge Stegner’s ruling allowed the Walkers to seek justice after they completed additional survey work to identify the original property corners and boundary lines.
Background and Surveyor Ethics
In 2009, Walkers neighbors, Harmon/Hoilands began building a home on what the Walkers believed was their property. The Walker’s Attorney subsequently sent Harmon/Hoilands a letter informing them that they were building on Walker property and to stop. Harmon/Hoilands ignored the demand letter and continued building not only the home, but a road across what had always been Walker property.
Since the Idaho Board of Surveyors (BOS) heavily promotes the position that they are all about “ethics”, let’s reveal what has transpired in the Walker case with the BOS and two of the surveyors hired by the Walkers.
Surveyor Chad Erickson
Surveyor Erickson was hired by the Walkers in 2010 and when he referred to Carl Edward’s (surveyor) Corner during a recent conversation with me, he stated, “When I looked at the aerial photo I could tell that Edward’s Corner was nothing.” And, this “took me a year and a half.” He continued, “you’ve probably heard Ketchum (surveyor) and others say that my Monument was in err because I used Edward’s Stone, that’s true, that’s true.” At one point Erickson claimed his own Monument was “Bogus.”
Keep in mind as you read this section on Erickson, that he represented himself as a licensed professional to the Walkers! Further, surveyor ethics require a surveyor not take any action that is detrimental to their client, such as assisting the other side in a controversy. It is also a breach of ethics to attack a client who has hired you as an expert. You may not agree with that client, but under the rules of expert witnesses, once hired, the surveyor cannot start working for the other side.
Fast-forwarding to March of 2015, we discovered that Chad Erickson was published in “the American Surveyor Magazine.” Their article was titled, “One Room Schools, Aerial Photos, & Hokey Pokey Surveys.” In the article, Erickson does his best to make Dorothy Walker look dishonest and refers to two of the Walkers surveyors (hired after Erickson was fired by the Walkers) as “paladins,” because they identified the Walker’s south property line, south of the line he previously thought should be established. Erickson stated in the article, “They and their opinions are now 80’ further south and 270 feet west and still going, apparent next stop, Pismo Beach, California.” Hyperbole aside, such name calling is strictly unethical.
Why would Erickson write this deceiving article over two years after the Walkers fired him, especially when he is bound by ethics not to attack a former client. Was he still mad over being fired? Or, given that in an interview he admitted to me that he was recently seen at the courthouse in Grangeville with Surveyor Hunter Edwards who was working for the other side (Harmon/Hoilands surveyor and son of Carl Edwards), did he write the article to hurt the Walkers and attempt to insure that the Walkers would lose their case or that the Harmon/Holimans would win theirs? If so, this is a strict violation of ethics.
Let’s deal with some of Erickson’s most damning statements. After his article was published, Erickson went to the Recorder’s Office at the courthouse in Grangeville and recorded the article (placed it into the public record). In the copy he recorded, he named Dorothy Walker and her, “surveyors” (Pete Ketchum and Steve Wellington). He did not mention them by name in his published article.
When I first confronted Erickson about his article, I hit him straight-on with a hard- to-answer question. His first response was, “I’m a little rattled right here, give me just a minute.” When I asked him why he didn’t name Dorothy Walker or the Walker’s other two surveyors in his published article, but he did in the recorded one, he paused for a fair amount of time and then responded, “Oh dear, it is there.” Erickson was letting on like he was looking up what he had filed on his computer, while we were on the phone. I pressed Erickson at this point, asking who got him to file the article into the record. He finally told me, “The Board [Idaho State Board of Surveyors] hired a surveyor. I sent him the magazine article and he said, ‘this helps a lot’ and, ah, he said, ‘you need to record that.’” I then asked Erickson for the name of the surveyor who told him that he needed to record it and he stated, “it seemed like J.R. Russell.” After another pause, he concluded, “John Russell out of McCall.” I subsequently called Surveyor John Russell and informed him that Chad Erickson had told me that he (John Russell) asked Erickson to record the article – that recording it would help a lot. John Russell replied, “that is a Lie!”
I will leave it up to my readership to separate the lies and to decide why Surveyor Chad Erickson would take over two years to complete a survey, on his own, that the Walkers can’t use, then, write a damning article about his client in a national magazine when nobody was paying him to do it. Was it revenge? Last, but certainly not least, Erickson charged the Walkers a whopping, “$37,856.00” for this. That’s almost $40,000! Would the Idaho Board of Surveyors consider this charge ethical, and, do they condone licensed surveyors writing defamatory articles about their own clients? Frankly, it is not ethical for the BOS to render a decision as long as there is unresolved litigation that a judge is supposed to resolve. Since this case is far from resolved, we see action by the BOS as an attempt at obstruction of justice.
During my conversation with Erickson he did enlighten me about surveying in the State of Idaho. Erickson stated, “Why can’t one surveyor survey the same as the next surveyor? It’s because their profession is totally dysfunctional, and the state Boards are the worst.” I was under the impression from what I have read about surveying that the Board’s rules prohibit one surveyor from bad-mouthing another. And what about bad-mouthing the Board?
Surveyor Steve Wellington
Surveyor Steve Wellington
In a recent conversation I had wherein Carl Edward’s SW Corner of Section 24 was referred to as possibly being fraudulent, Walker’s second Surveyor Steve Wellington stated to me, “I always figured it was either fraud or gross negligence, but I had no proof of either one.” Wellington continued, “Now he’s got his son (Hunter Edwards) trying to perpetuate…” All I have to say about this statement by Wellington is that he could only have concluded this by looking at evidence (surveys, etc.) and surveying Section 24 (which he has done). It is clear that Wellington is merely attempting to limit his possible liability by stating, “but I had no proof of either one.”
Cutting to the chase, Steve Wellington took much less time to “complete his work” for the Walkers. Wellington reportedly took only one year to file his “Record of Survey.” And get this; he saved the Walkers some money – the Walkers only had to pay Wellington a whopping, “$30,059.36” for his “work.”
Unlike Chad Erickson’s “$37,856.00” survey, the Walkers were going to use Steve Wellington’s “$30,059.36” survey in court, however, two years after filing his Record of Survey and approximately one month before the Walkers deadline for filing their amended complaint, Wellington did a ‘180.’ He allegedly told Dorothy Walker and her attorney in April of 2015, that he was under “duress” (pressure) by the Walker’s Boise Attorney, when he filed his original Record of Survey, and, that he would have to file a corrected one. Surveyor John Russell told me that when he met with Steve Wellington in Meridian, ID., Wellington told him he, “was under a little duress” by Dorothy Walker when he filed his Record of Survey. Why would Wellington give such differing statements? What integrity Mr. Wellington!
Wellington stated he is now required to file a corrected Record of Survey, but why wouldn’t he have done this long ago if that was true? If he was under duress when he filed over two years ago, wouldn’t that mean, he knew at that time, he was filing a false survey? Having already had Chad Erickson admit to me that he was communicating with Hunter Edwards about the Walker’s survey, I can’t help but wonder if Wellington has been talking to Hunter and possibly others who are opposing the Walkers. You see, all the Walkers want is their property according to the original corners. In fact, surveyors call it the “law of original corners.” But, those who are encroaching on the Walker property are pushing hard to nibble away big chunks of land for themselves.
I learned in late April from one of our sources that Walker’s current attorney was communicating with Attorney David R. Risley, who represents the Harmon/Hoilands, about a possible mediation regarding this case and guess what – Attorney Risley wrote, “We would like to have a firm deposition date for Mr. Wellington scheduled for a week or so after the Mediation.” Why in the world would Risley bring up a deposition of Wellington in late April of 2015, when Wellington filed his Record of Survey over two years ago? It appears to me that Risley must have known Wellington was going to change his Record of Survey and he could only know this if Wellington had been speaking to either him or others associated with the Walkers opposition. Could the Walkers have paid their Surveyor Steve Wellington “$30,059.36” to assist the very people they have filed lawsuits against? Talk about unethical!
Again, I would ask the Idaho Board of Professional Land Surveyors; are all of these statements and actions ethical?
The Walkers are about to file their amended complaint to preserve the land that they paid for and was originally deeded to them. The suit will include the Ray Zumwalt Estate, and Mike Frei. The Freis were the original landowners who hired surveyor Carl Edwards back in 1977, when Edwards established a “new corner” for the Walker’s section of land, which in turn, changed and affected additional properties. The US~Observer is continuing to not only compile facts in our effort to prove that Edward’s corner is “fraudulent”, but to uncover the motive and intent behind his “fraud.”
I commend Dorothy Walker and her family for acting on their principles. Dorothy has been forced over the past five years to conduct an intense and very thorough study of surveying laws, principles, the history of surveys in the area where her property corners and boundaries are located, and the actual practice of surveying. Dorothy and her family know what property they purchased and they are willing to fight for it. In light of the other twenty surveys or more – which are all different – that have been conducted regarding Section 24 in Grangeville, Idaho, I will choose to rely on the Walker’s proven information as to original corners and the fact that the person they purchased from clearly described the boundaries of section 24 to them.
Recommendations to the Idaho Board of Professional Land Surveyors
The Board of Surveyors should not even be involved in this case while it is being adjudicated. However, since they chose to jump in, I must address Board issues in this article and I must now include the Board and the Board members in my investigation.
Surveyor John Russell
When I questioned Surveyor John Russell, he informed me that the Board had hired him and that this case was different than most. Russell stated that he wrote his report for the Board’s Executive Director Keith Simila, and, that he was asked to write his opinion as opposed to his factual finding. Russell said that historically, the Board wants facts. I would publicly ask Simila; why is this case different, and who have you been “Dealing” with? Opinions suggest that decisions are politically motivated.
I’m sure the Board is aware that reporter Cynthia Sewell of the Idaho Statesman wrote an article in March of 2015 that stated: “Idaho is one of eight states without an agency or independent commission to oversee state ethics laws. It is one of three states with no financial disclosure requirements for state, judicial, county and city elected officials and it has no ‘revolving door’ policy. These shortcomings are part of the reason the state has received a D- in a national survey rating government corruption risk.”
My final recommendations to Simila and his Board would be: start demanding that your surveyors practice actual ethics. Have the deceitful and dishonest surveyors involved prosecuted. And, do not attempt to influence ongoing litigation by board action and stop playing your “behind closed doors” favoritism regarding the Walkers and their case. If you don’t, I assure you that further exposure will follow.
Edward Snook’s Note: I urge anyone with information on this case or any of the people involved to call me at 541-474-7885541-474-7885 or send an email to email@example.com.